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Emergency telehealth boosts WA response

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23rd Oct 2012
Danielle Cesta   all articles by this author

THE swift treatment of 10 people who survived a recent fatal road accident in regional Western Australia has been credited to a new emergency telehealth service being trialled under a state government initiative.

Survivors of the crash, which claimed three lives, were taken to Southern Cross Hospital, 360km east of Perth in WA’s wheatbelt region, where they were managed through an Emergency Telehealth Service (ETS) by a physician.

The hospital is one of eight sites linked to the Perth-based ETS, which is run by the WA Country Health Service.

The 10 patients were overseen by the emergency physician on duty, Dr Agnieszka Willis, using a video conferencing link for several hours before being transferred to Perth.

The WA Country Health Service’s executive director of clinical reform Dr Felicity Jefferies said Dr Willis worked with Royal Perth Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital, St John Ambulance and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

“Staff at Southern Cross said that they felt as though they had a doctor in the emergency department with them,” Dr Jefferies said.

The ETS pilot, led by Dr Garth Herrington, operates from 5pm on Fridays to Sundays servicing wheatbelt towns in WA that have little or no access to GPs.

Dr Herrington told MO the road accident case demonstrated the program’s success because people involved hinted that the situation was very calm and orderly despite being a very challenging environment.

“They called us and the doctor communicated directly with the patient and staff. It would have been overwhelming to have 10 people – four were kids – with severe injuries. There was oversight and coordination and staff got supported,” he said.

In the first five weeks since the service began, 159 patients have been treated. However Dr Herrington stressed the service supported rural health professionals and did not replace the need for local doctors.

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